By Barbara Wean
I am just dying for some homegrown vegetables this year. The taste of warm veggies picked and cooked immediately from the garden has just got to be one of the best things ever. So even if you don’t have a lot of room you can grow a surprising number of vegetables in a very small space.
In a small space garden you’ll need to spend extra time on soil preparation. With a small plot you can add a liberal amount of soil amendments like sawdust, manure, peat moss and my favorite, compost. But before you do have your soil checked so you know what to add. What you are trying to find out is if your soil is acidic or alkaline. Any pH less than seven is acid and any pH greater than seven is alkaline. Ideal is slightly acid to neutral, which is seven. This is usually the range here because it rains so much. Most big box stores carry inexpensive soil testing kits, it’s worth testing before you go to the trouble of digging and planting.
Clay soils are common here and cause a lot of grief because they bake in the summer into a hard mass, and are slippery and gummy in the winter. You can add sawdust or bark to them because they separate the fine clay particles without holding moisture. But you must add nitrogen to the soil so your plants will grow. Manure is good if it’s composted; if it’s fresh it will burn your plants. Peat moss is ideal for sandy soils because it holds water and nutrients well. If you use peat moss, wet it well before you mix it into your soil. Compost is wonderful for any type of soil. Lucky you if you have a compost pile!
Now what should we plant. Everyone plants radishes because it’s so satisfying to see those little green seedlings come up so fast. You will be eating fresh radishes in a few weeks. But for rib sticking veggies, plant pole and bush beans, zucchini, chard, carrots, beets and lots of different lettuces. Don’t forget tomatoes and herbs to go with basil. If you have room, add eggplant, scallions and peppers. Don’t forget to make a tee-pee for your pole beans. Corn is especially sweet grown at home, but takes up a lot of room. If you have the space by all means add it to your garden.
If you have extremely poor soil consider raised beds. You can have a load of four-way topsoil brought in and start gardening right away. A good width for raised beds is four or five feet and length is whatever you have room for. The depth should be 12 – 18 inches. If you build several beds, be sure to leave room for a wheelbarrow to travel between them.
I add flowers to my veggie garden. It helps confuse the bugs, looks good and adds to the cut flower supply. How about a beautiful Autumn Sunset rose? It’s a great climber if you have a fence.
If this is your first attempt at vegetable gardening, do it! You will feel so proud of yourself when you pick those warm veggies right out of your garden. It will save you money too and we all like that feature. Have fun!